Sunday, October 4, 2009
It has been more than three months since I have had the wherewithal to muster the will to blog. In this time, we have packed up the house in Florida, spent a month in Kansas/Iowa, and moved with two kids, two dogs and twelve bags to Poland. We have been here eight weeks now and are adjusting reasonably well. (Despite the fact that our things are all being stored somewhere in Miami waiting to be shipped pending the approval of my husband's work visa.)
Truly, the details of our material existence here are nothing compared to how interesting and exciting are the spiritual aspects of being in Poland. What I find most amazing is how the conversations here are really the same conversations we were having back in Florida and were really the same conversations we were having in Kansas... The House of Justice has focused the Baha'i world so effectively around the aims of the Plans and the processes of the Institutes, that really the only thing that is appreciably different is the accents of the individuals having the conversations.
I realize that this is a gross over-simplification but it is true. Our concerns, our trials and our victories are common regardless of our locality... Baha'is everywhere worry about being effective, the Counselors everywhere encourage and set the bar very high, the friends everywhere work to fill out the Cluster Growth Profile (keeping track of the numbers), and everyone wonders if they are praying enough, teaching enough, and doing the bidding of the House of Justice.
Today, as we reflected on the successes and outcomes of the weekend's expansion phase, I had to smile to myself, laugh a little and wonder at the marvel that is the Baha'i world. It really is a small planet and Baha'u'llah has given each of us, no matter where we reside, the tools to conquer the hearts of those that reside thereon.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
The May 17 letter notes a growing dynamism as one of the salient features of our worldwide community. The dictionary defines dynamism as great energy, force, or power. Our Baha'i community has great energy, it has force, and it has power! The individual, the community, and the institutions are all coming together to demonstrate this power to ourselves as well as the greater community.
One of the outcomes of our dynamic, powerful community is that individuals will want to attend Baha'i Feast. It is natural that our community of interest will be drawn to our gatherings as people flee from the pain and sorrow of the world. The Baha'is have something to offer and people will reach for it as moths to a flame.
Of course, this means that we will occasionally find that seekers will show up at Feast wishing to attend even when they have not been invited. Beautifully, the Universal House of Justice has helped us understand how we are to deal with these situations. As Baha'is are to have an outward-looking vision, we would naturally not wish to be rude. Therefore, the new guidance indicates that we can hold feast almost as usual keeping in mind the need for confidentiality and restraint.
Note: We should guard against taking this new guidance to mean we can invite seekers to our Feasts. However much we may wish to share our Faith enthusiastically with interested individuals, it would be a mistake to forget that Feast was an institution created for the Baha'is themselves and respecting this directive is important. Nonetheless, should someone show up at Feast who is not a Baha'i, we are free to include them in Feast and adhere to the standard format (with discretion given to the Local Spiritual Assemblies to decide how much to include).
Part of what I love about being a Baha'i is the on-going, ever-dynamic understanding of the Faith that grows along with the community. The Universal House of Justice states, The continued expansion of the Bahá’í community in the years to come will surely give rise to a range of challenges that will affect how the devotional, administrative, and social aspects of the Nineteen Day Feast are conducted in diverse localities.
Further, Responsibility for addressing these challenges will fall, in the first instance, on Local Spiritual Assemblies. Theirs is the duty to remain alert to conditions in their communities, to consult with the friends, to respond thoughtfully to a multiplicity of needs and circumstances, and to remain flexible without compromising fundamental principles.
Remaining flexible without compromising fundamental principles is a hallmark of our Faith. This is the accumulating experience that allows us to grow and change and yet never waver in our principles. This is our energy, our force, and our power... This is what makes us dynamic... This is what makes us Baha'is.
Monday, June 8, 2009
I was sorting through some paperwork and there it was - the edition titled, Homefront Pioneers - Settling in "Clusters That are the Focus of Systematic Attention." As our Auxiliary Board member keeps reminding us, we have to find our replacements (and my replacement as ATC secretary).
How about a homefront pioneer?
Two quotes in particular from the Universal House of Justice stand out...
...equally important will be the support lent to a cluster through an influx of pioneers; and
Let those souls able to join their co-workers in the forefront of activity hesitate not a moment longer.
My husband is still negotiating with his company but if we can swing it, we are thinking maybe we could rent our home for a bargain-basement price to a Baha'i couple who would love to move to Florida but cannot swing it without a housing deal. This would allow us to have the house cared for as well as supply much needed human resources to this new A-status cluster.
Ft Myers has been hit hard by the economic crisis but there are still jobs to be had and beaches to be loved. There are several education opportunities in the area, the biggest being Florida Gulf Coast University, which is just around the corner from our home. The Baha'i community is stalwart and loving and wanting for additional help as it pursues activities in line with the Plan.
Lee Cluster needs help... Anyone interested??? ...hesitate not a moment longer...
Saturday, June 6, 2009
I was in Poland twice way back when during my college years. Once, in 1991, I traveled to Poland after a month in the Soviet Union. Back then, the German National Assembly sent us in to the Soviet Union with a box of Baha'i books tucked carefully into our things so as to hopefully escape detection. I cannot remember how I ended up in Poland afterwards (and then detoured to Romania) but what I remember is my time spent with an inspirational group of youth teaching in Wroclaw. It was such a wonderful, learning time for me. My second visit to Poland (1992) was for three months travel teaching in Poznan (with short trips to Zielona Gora and Torun). Again, it was a time that was nothing short of amazing.
Now flash forward 17 years, a husband, two kids and much life later I, along with my amazing family, are headed back to Poland. Again, I have to say that I am afraid of not living up to the responsibility I feel that comes with this blessing.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Shoghi Effendi said, "The Work of the Pioneer is the Most Important Task an Individual can Perform; Its Blessings are Great."* Yikes! What are the chances we can live up to the weightiness of the work of the pioneer?
In a few days, Solomon and I will celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. Over the course of these years, we have tried to pioneer and at times we have come close but it had not yet worked out. We moved to Florida 2 1/2 years ago because of Solomon's job. It has been a hard couple years for us, the kids most especially; but we have learned so much about IPG's and the work at the cluster level. I can now see how this time in Florida has been a training ground for pioneering.
As a matter of fact, I was just resigning myself to life in Florida when Solomon called me up during Fast and said, "Did you ever have one of those moments when you feel like your life is going to change? You know... like when we decided to get married..."
Yes... Life is changing for us but it is as exciting as it is daunting. The kids are thrilled and the dogs ought really not know the difference as long as they are still with us (but the cold will be biting for our little, thin-haired one).
God willing, in two months we will be on a plane headed to Warsaw. I can hardly believe that Baha'u'llah has blessed us with this opportunity and I only hope that I can even begin to live up to the honor.
*(Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 578)
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I thought I would share a photo of the cake my son made for our Ridvan celebration.
What I love about this cake is not only was it made by my son, but it took a lot of effort. Every year I ponder the idea that Ridvan is the King of Festivals or the Most Great Festival. It seems rather self-explanatory to me!
Truly, as the Baha'i world evolves, we will figure out how to make Ridvan feel more important, more joyous and more momentous than everything else we do. It is not that the other celebrations are not important, joyous or momentous but we have to remember that Ridvan is about the very founding of our Faith. It is a celebration of our beginning... It is a celebration of the beginning of the new spiritual journey of the entire world... It is a celebration of the birth of a New Era that signals the coming maturity of a planet that has struggled for millions of years to attain this day without night... How could we relegate this time to something we merely squeeze into the craziness of our lives?
I throw these thoughts out there not because I feel like our family is living up to the standard I feel we should; but solely as food-for-thought. It is just something to ponder at this joyous time. Maybe next year we'll do it just a little bit better... and the year after that... and the year after that...
Thursday, April 30, 2009
I have put together a bookmark to give the friends at the Reflection Meeting. On one side, I've put the chosen prayer (Teaching Prayer for the Southern States). On the other side, I want to put a blurb about the value of prayer campaigns. Here is where I'm falling down. In my head I understand what prayer campaigns can bring to a community but when it comes to writing it down, I can't seem to put my thoughts together.
What I came up with I largely "borrowed" from another blog dedicated to an A-status cluster's activities. I loved what it said about the nature of a cluster-wide prayer campaign: "Offering ardent daily prayers... for receptive souls in the cluster and for Baha'i teachers to arise courageously to directly teach the Faith."
I love the idea of "offering ardent prayers." I wonder if all our prayers were "ardent," would we be that much more successful in our endeavors?
Saturday, April 25, 2009
WOW! Can you imagine? Each and every one of us has a role in "rebuilding a broken world."
Therefore, we need to reframe our concept of the teaching work to encompass the idea that the only way to rebuild this broken world is to bring it Baha'u'llah's healing message. This alone should be enough to push us to stretch ourselves a little more... To step out of whatever comfort zone we have created and move beyond what is simply easy to something more profound, meaningful and engaging.
At times, I am proundly saddened by the world as it exists today. I see pictures of suffering children and I am almost moved to inaction by an overwhelming sense of grief. In these moments, just a short prayer can be enough to make me remember that the only remedy is to teach Baha'u'llah's Faith... Remember this and move resolutely forward. This Ridvan season, challenge yourself. Make a move to tell one person, in a direct manner, about the Faith. Let's all of us, together, make little steps; and those 'little steps' will be a giant leap towards the goals of this 5 Year Plan.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
...no one could have imagined then how profoundly the Lord of Hosts, in His inscrutable wisdom, intended to transform His community in so short a span of time.
This is wonderful! The House of Justice is celebrating our achievements while helping us to understand that we are all just a part of God's greater plan and that if we keep working undismayed and united, we will continue to grow and be successful in our efforts to serve the Plan.
Each and every one offered a glimpse of that race of beings, consecrated and courageous, pure and sanctified, destined to evolve over generations under the direct influence of Baha'u'llah's Revelation.
This is definitely a new way of looking at evolution! To imagine that the House saw in the participants of the conferences a glimpse of this new race of man that would embody, in the future, those attributes of God made possible by the coming of Baha'u'llah. That means we have a long way to go but, at the same time, should feel some gratitude that already in only a few generations, the signs are appearing!
In them, we saw the first signs of the fulfilment of our hope expressed at the outset of the Plan that the edifying infludence of the Faith would be extended to hundreds of thousands through the institute process.
Again, the House of Justice can see the glimmer, the beginning, the achievement of goals that move us in the right direction; but, there is so much more to do! Keep extending this influence!
The Ridvan letter is about celebration, thankfulness, and rededication to a task given us by Baha'u'llah. As the House of Justice put it, What more can we do at the opening of this most joyous Festival than to bow our heads in humility before God and offer Him thanksgiving for His unbounded generosity to the community of the Greatest Name.
After all, we are ...the community of the blissful...
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Here's my take on "The Dual Challenge." It is merely an understanding from my limited viewpoint and one that will need to be supplemented by thoughts generated by further study of the Writings and letters from the Institutions of the Faith.
Well, this is what we are all trying to figure out, isn't it? Even in our own cluster, which is starting its first IPG in two weeks, pulling all of our diverse elements into a cohesive whole is our greatest challenge. We have so many individuals working in so many ways and now our new ATC is challenged to find a way to help everyone understand, among other things, that direct teaching is multi-faceted and door-to-door teaching is only one element. If everyone felt the urgency to up-the-ante on their teaching methods, we would be moving towards cohesiveness.
In our Reflection Meeting, we will be challenged to pull everyone's efforts and teaching preferences into a unified whole, moving towards the same goal. If we can help everyone to feel that whatever it is they have to contribute is meaningful and valued, we'll have gone far towards integrating the varied activities of our community. I we can make our plans simple and systematic, we will be much more successful than if we tried to be complex and too complaisant.
There are so many ways to meet the dual challenge and these are only a few suggestions, thoughts and hopes of mine. As usual, I would love to hear about successful strategies others have used!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
That said, a core groups of local believers was instrumental in keeping going home visits, children's classes and jr youth activities. To them, I and the entire community owes a debt of gratitude.
Now that we have re-formed an ATC, we are challenged to gather up our resources and charge forward. Our Reflection Meeting has been set for April 25 with expansion activities to follow. This will be our first 'official' IPG effort.
In order to make the effort successful, the breadth and scope of our activities must meet the challenges inherent in a semi-transient community such as ours. I know we can do it!
We have decided to move forward with several key activities which do not vary from our past activities. It seemed that if we were still challenged to accomplish what we have been working on for the better part of a year, there is no reason to change course midstream; especially given that each practice cycle, we have made significant gains and improvements. I am very excited to be able to apply what we have learned up to this point to make everything successful.
Despite our back and forth momentum, the Universal House of Justice offers us an unequivocal reason for keeping the course without hesitation... There can be no doubt that the stage is set for a marked advance in the process of entry by troops thoughout the country.
There can be NO DOUBT...
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I love reading new blogs and learning what the Baha'i world is doing and thinking so please keep me posted on any blogs you like. I'd really appreciate it!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
My children are blessed to be third generation Baha'is so while they experience some version of Christmas with great-grandparents, it is merely an unimpressive blip on continuum of our lives. What they look forward to most is the season of Fasting, bounded by Ayyam-i-Ha and Naw-Ruz. (In a later post, I will talk about our efforts to swing the excitement pendulum towards Ridvan, which, after all, is the Most Great Festival and deserves equal, if not greater attention.)
Our family has a Fast tradition that which started a few years ago when the kids were young. It has become something the kids look forward to every year.
During Ayyam-i-Ha, I set out candles on the coffee table. I use a glass display plate and place a large candle in the center surrounded by 18 smaller tea light candles. My favorite candles smell like rose which reminds me of the Shrines in Haifa and Akka.
Each night of Fast, before bed when it is totally dark, we turn off all the lights in the house and light the number of candles that matches the number of days of Fast. On the first night of Fast, we light one candle; on the second night, we light two candles; and so on. We save the large candle in the middle for the last night, the 19th day of Fast.
On the final night of Fast, all the candles are lit and it is a beautiful sight. It is very special to say prayers each night by candlelight and I hope it is a tradition the boys will share with their own families in the future.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Reading the letter from the Baha'i International Community (working from the United Nations in New York City) to the Prosecutor General in Iran (link below) reminds me of how freedom of religious expression is a luxury many others lack. Even as I think of my fasting until 7:30pm as a difficult personal challenge, I remember that our Baha'i sisters and brothers in prison in Iran are themselves fasting, even in those torturous conditions.
The Universal House of Justice has asked us to hold our own prayer gatherings; they've asked us to hold community prayer gatherings open to the press; and they've asked us to write our Congressional Representatives both in the House and Senate. This is the least we can do.
On March 6, 2009, the House of Justice said, "The heroic steadfastness of the Bahá’ís in the Cradle of the Faith has released mighty spiritual forces into the world." We would do well to remember this during Fast and rearrange our lives accordingly so as to take full advantage of these bounties.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Now that Fast is here, I am challenged to revisit my personal plan and redouble my effort to meet the goals I outlined for myself. Ridvan 2009 is fast approaching!
As the advent of Ridvan 2009 brings on our new cluster status as A-stage, I am faced with many more to-do's than even my personal plan presents. Our newly-formed ATC now needs to meet soon and start the business of planning a reflection meeting and expansion phase. If anyone has any suggestions for creating enthusiasm for a reflection meeting, please let me know!
In looking at my personal plan, there is so much I did not accomplish. At the same time, there are areas where I made definite improvements. Certainly, my next plan will incorporate many of the same elements. When it comes time to rework my plan for the new Baha'i year, I will post. Maybe it will help you make your plan.
Enjoy Fast. For me, it is never without its ups and downs but I am amazed each new year as I get a little better and a little more determined to grow spiritually. Hopefully, we all do!
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
While I was appointed secretary of the ATC, which means that many of my responsibilities remain the same, I will be glad to have the two additional people to hound me about getting done what I said I'd get done. I'm a procrastinator and it helps to have others to keep me on-task. Even if I don't get something done because I need to, oftentimes, I will manage to get it done when I know there is someone ready to pick up the phone and take me to task for my inaction. It is not an ideal existence but I recognize it and am working to make improvements
Like a prescient confirmation of our new status, I came across a quote from the Universal House of Justice, “…there is little need for lengthy and frequent consultations to set direction and devise and rethink fundamental plans" (Turning Point, p. 255). Yea!
That said, we will have to meet soon to make plans for our first official IPG and it will take concentrated effort to generate support and enthusiasm for our new status and we will spend a little too much time going round and round on some over-wrought plans. At the same time, it means that the extent to which we refine and systematize our consultations will reflect on our ability to meet less and put more time into action in the field.
To all those clusters scheduled for A-stage status by Ridvan 2009... Keep working! It is an amazing and historic time that will regarded by history as a turning point in the fortunes of the Faith.
And I'll keep working on my procrastination issues. :)
(The book Turning Point published by Palabra is a wonderful collection of messages and supplementary material from the World Centre.)
Monday, February 16, 2009
I remember very clearly when Mr. Aghdasi said that if we were persistent in following through with systematic, on-going neighborhood children's classes, in about six months we would start to see results in the form of enrollments. Well, here we are 6-7 months after Project Badi rolled into town and started our classes for us and we just had our 4th adult declaration and 3rd child registration in a month!
While I could write a long time about the children's classes and how persistence paid off, etc, really I need to say something about how some of these declarations are happening. This post is really an homage to those persistent teachers who never give up even when they are not the ones holding the freshly signed declaration card.
There is a small but growing group of friends who are teaching on a regular basis in our neighborhood of focus. Two women, in particular, go out every weekend to conduct home visits and door-to-door teaching; and their work is paying off.
It all started when the Universal House of Justice called for the 41 conferences and we, here in Southwest Florida, started to work to get the friends to Atlanta. Originally, my family was going to take several of the friends but as our van filled, we realized we needed more alternatives.
As if it were meant to be, Anne realized she would have a car to drive. Then, Connie agreed to ride with her... It was meant to be and it only gets more confirming!
We received a call that a nearby seeker (who met a Baha'i in an airport) needed a ride to the conference. Anne and Connie agreed to go out of their way and pick the seeker and her friend up an hour north of here then drive the 9-10 hours to Atlanta. As the story is retold later, they talked almost all the way up about the Faith and she declared at the conference. Yea!
When Anne and Connie got back from the conference, they made a pact to go do home visits and teaching on a weekly basis and they haven't looked back. A couple weeks ago, their efforts paid off again! After presenting Anna's presentation to a mother during children's classes, the next week another friend was able to secure a declaration card from her.
Talk about effective tag-team teaching! In both instances, it was not necessarily Anne and Connie who got the signed declaration card but the importance of their contribution cannot be understated! If it were not for their hard work and dedication, it is likely those declarations would not have been realized. Thank you!!!
Some people are very good teachers and others are very good closers. We need to remember to thank everyone for their contribution to the work. As the Universal House of Justice said in their December 6, 2008 letter to the conferences in the United States... May all find a part to play. May all appreciate the contributions of others.
Anne and Connie... You have no idea how much I appreciate the work you are doing!
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
It is true that the travel teaching/pioneering greats... Martha Root, Agnes Alexander, Marion Jack, etc... were single. At the same time, there were plenty of greats who worked tirelessly while serving as mothers; Corinne True being the best example I can think of right now. Her service, while largely confined to the city of Chicago and her home, was beyond compare. Others raised their kids and then jumped into the field of service with unmatched zeal (such as Dorothy Baker).
What I wrestle with constantly is the balance in my life. It is not that the kids keep me busier than anyone else but it's that I'm always consumed with the little things, mundane and not-so-mundane, that make up a part of raising kids and keeping a house clean. When I add in all the things I am supposed to be doing as Assembly secretary and Cluster Development Facilitator, it is a recipe for failure unless I put it all in the proper perspective.
For me, that perspective is that even though I can't do it all, I can do a lot well. Each day is a new day. Each day is a fresh one in which to forgive myself for the failings of the previous day and try again. Each day is an opportunity to improve a little more, to get one more thing on my list done, and to teach one more person.
It is hard to hold myself up to the standard set by those selfless maidservants of the Faith who came before me and not feel unworthy. That said, as suggested by our Auxiliary Board member, I need to be more patient with myself.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
As Baha’i parents, we often have a lot of information and help when it comes to raising children both as Baha’is and as individuals in a crumbling world order; but what about the children as active Baha’is in a process they will soon be asked to shoulder?
Children are not some separate entity from our Baha’i lives, not even when teaching. If our kids don’t see us modeling the process, they won’t learn to do it themselves. Think about how much easier it would have been for most of us to start teaching directly had we grown up practicing.
Both challenges #1 and #2 are appropriate for both adults and children alike. If you have the kids memorize and practice the first two lines of Anna’s Presentation then it is available for them at any moment. I love hearing when the kids come home and said they told a teacher or another student about the Faith. It’s so important that they are encouraged to teach and then share their stories!
There are many other ways to involve children in the teaching process besides just telling people they meet. Children can be invited to take part in home visits and go door-to-door.
Last summer, we held a teaching project and went door-to-door. My 13-year-old went with an adult and another jr youth as part of the teaching team. The adult knocked on the first ten doors and modeled what to say and how to act and showed the jr youth how to use Anna’s Presentation. Then the jr youth took turns knocking on doors (with the adult by their side) and introducing the Faith.
Afterwards, my son was so excited! For weeks he would mention how much fun he had teaching and telling people about the Faith. For me, a generally timid sort of person, it was an example of how kids can do things without the fears adults carry. Since that time, both the kids have been door-to-door several times and each time they return filled with a joy and spirit gained only when engaging in genuine service to the Faith.
Even if you, yourself, have fears, don’t let it be part of your children’s lives. Let go and be confident and bold and be an example to your kids. Even if you’re trembling inside, do it anyway.
I know, I know… Talk is easy and action takes courage; courage I struggle with every day. I keep praying that God remake me in His Will so that I can help my children to be the shining examples I haven’t been. I want them to be so much better!
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
Friday, January 2, 2009
I know, I know… This is more like the Week 3 ½ challenge but since it is the second challenge to be issued, I’ll call it Challenge #2 or something like that. Our winter drive up north made it difficult to keep up with my blog but now that we’re back home here in the land of palm trees and receptive souls, I’ll try to get back to regular posting.
Reminder: Challenge #1 was to memorize the first two lines of Anna’s Presentation and start to pray regularly to be led to receptive souls.
If you have managed to win the goals of the first challenge, now is definitely not the time to rest! Challenge #2 is about using those two lines in Anna’s to speak forthrightly with those people you meet. Praying to be led to receptive souls is one thing but to actively open our mouths and speak out is another even more exigent endeavor.
The Universal House of Justice said in its Ridván 2008 message, “In their presentation of the message of Baha’u’llah and the exposition of its verities, they have taken to heart the words of Shoghi Effendi that they must neither “hesitate” nor “falter”, neither “overstress” nor “whittle down” the truth which they champion.”
Therefore, the challenge I am laying before myself, and anyone else who cares to join me, is to actually open my mouth and use those two lines of Anna’s that I just memorized. There is no better way to make sure that we are not whittling down or faltering in our mention of the Faith of Baha’u’llah.
So, pray and have courage and make a point to use the words you now have at the tip of your tongue. And don’t forget to let my know how you’re doing!